A 71-year-old woman died after she was found injured inside her own D.C. home on Friday. Her family says the man charged with assaulting her threatened her two decades earlier and was released from prison early because of the pandemic.
Sylvia Matthews died after the attack in her home in the unit block of Elmira Street SW.
Michael Garrett, 66, of no fixed address, was arrested and initially charged with assault with intent to kill.
Matthews’ devastated family said her death could have been prevented.
“He should not have been on the street,” a relative said, asking that her name not be used.
It wasn't immediately clear if Garrett had a lawyer.
Matthews lived on Elmira Street for decades. Neighbors called police Friday at about 7:30 a.m. after they heard noise.
Someone had smashed the windows of Matthews’ SUV and tried to break into the basement of her home.
Police responded but the suspect was gone.
Matthews left her home and returned hours later, at about 11:30 a.m. She apparently thought the incident was over, but it wasn’t, her family said.
“She went into the house and he was in her house,” her relative said.
Police were called again, this time by someone who had been helping Matthews clean up broken glass from the early-morning break-in.
“He said he heard a scuffle and when he heard the scuffle, he called the police,” the relative said she was told.
Garrett was found inside Matthews’ home, near where Matthews lay unconscious.
He told police he had just gotten there and that he had come to check on the victim and found her there with injuries.
Matthews died of her injuries the next day.
“Oh my gosh, we’re devastated,” her relative said. “It’s like the system failed us.”
Court documents say Garrett broke into Matthews’ home in 1999 and chased her to a neighbor’s house.
He was arrested and jailed, and let out on compassionate release in March as COVID-19 spread through the inmate population.
Matthews’ family said they didn’t know Garrett but knew of him. They believe Matthews and Garrett met when Matthews worked in the pharmacy of the Old Lorton Reformatory and Garrett was an inmate.
D.C. police initially called the offense “domestic in nature.”
Police are working with the U.S. Attorney’s office to file additional charges against Garrett.